The Bookseller’s YA Book Prize has revealed its shortlist for 2021, which includes books by former winner Patrice Lawrence and two début authors, Darren Charlton and Danielle Jawando. Malorie Blackman will also receive a special achievement award to celebrate the 20th anniversary of her Young Adult novel, Noughts & Crosses.
Lawrence, who won the 2017 YA Book Prize with her first novel Orangeboy and was also shortlisted in 2018, makes the YA10 list with thriller Eight Pieces of Silva (Hodder Children’s Books), which sees its protagonist Becks unravel clues to find her missing stepsister Silva. Charlton’s Wranglestone is a post-apocalyptic zombie thriller where homebody Peter is forced to leave his community of human survivors and question everything he knows; while in Jawando’s And the Stars Were Burning Brightly (Simon & Schuster Children’s Books), Nathan tries to find answers in the aftermath of his brother Al’s suicide with help from Al’s former classmate Megan.
Prize-winning writer Alex Wheatle earns his third YA Book Prize shortlisting with his story centred around a 1760 slave uprising in Jamaica, entitled Cane Warriors (Andersen Press). Four authors are shortlisted for a second time, including Holly Jackson, who is featured for Good Girl, Bad Blood (Electric Monkey), the follow-up to her award-winning thriller début A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder, which sees teen Pip put on her detective hat again when someone she knows goes missing. Alice Oseman is another second-time shortlistee with Loveless (HarperCollins Children’s Books), which centres on Georgia as she heads to university and starts to question why love seems easier for other people than it does for her. Scholastic stablemates Melinda Salisbury and Laura Wood are also in the running again, with respectively Hold Back the Tide, a fantasy horror in which dark forces begin to stir in a small town in the Scottish Highlands, and A Snowfall of Silver, which follows 18-year-old Freya as she runs away from her home in Cornwall to follow her dream of becoming an actress.
Completing the shortlist are two novels which see their main characters undergo journeys of discovery over life-changing summer holidays: The Great Godden by Meg Rosoff (Bloomsbury) and Melt My Heart by Bethany Rutter (Macmillan Children’s Books). The 10-strong shortlist will be judged by a panel comprising: Charlie Brinkhurst-Cuff, journalist and editor-in-chief at gal-dem; children and schools programme director at Edinburgh International Book Festival Rachel Fox; Will Hill, author and winner of the YA Book Prize 2018; Layla Hudson, director of inclusive children’s bookshop Round Table Books; and book YouTuber and freelance social media producer Sanne Vliegenthart. The panel will be chaired by Caroline Carpenter, deputy features editor at The Bookseller and co-host of children’s book radio show “Down the Rabbit Hole”, and joined by teenage judges from schools based in London, Hereford and Bradford.
Meanwhile, former Waterstones Children’s Laureate Blackman is the recipient of the third YA Book Prize Special Achievement Award. The accolade marks the 20th anniversary of the first novel in her Noughts & Crosses series, set in an alternate reality where Black people (Crosses) are the ruling class and white people (noughts) are underprivileged. The book was last year adapted into a six-part television series airing on BBC One.
Carpenter said: “We’re really excited to share this year’s YA Book Prize shortlist, which offers teenagers and young adults a brilliant list of novels to engage and entertain, from fast-paced thrillers to get their brains ticking to stories about love and friendship that will warm their hearts.” She added: “We are also delighted to honour the Queen of UK YA, Malorie Blackman. During her 30-year career as an author she has inspired generations of young readers, not only through her own writing—including the seminal Noughts & Crosses books—but also during her stint as Children’s Laureate, which saw the founding of the UK’s first Young Adult Literature Convention. Congratulations to Malorie and to all of this year’s shortlisted authors!”
The shortlisted titles will be promoted via The Bookseller and the YA Book Prize’s digital channels in a dedicated campaign from 22nd March to 25th April. The recipient of the YA Book Prize 2021 will be announced online on Thursday 6th May, with the winning author scooping £2,000. The award is again partnering with the Hay Festival which, as well as supporting the prize’s social media activity, will host a live event, with the winner in conversation with 2016’s winner and former Irish Children’s Laureate Sarah Crossan.